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Day 365–A New Blog Is Born!

Happy New Year’s Eve! Thanks to all of you who have commented, emailed or texted me information about what you like in this blog! I’ve used your comments and some goals of our own to create a NEW blog SOLE Food Kitchen, http://www.solefoodkitchen.com (since the link is not apparently working) that focuses on eating Sustainable, Organic, Local and Ethically-sourced food. Please check it out!

This is very much a work in progress, but I’ve posted my first entry and hope you’ll take a look! I still have a LOT to do. A GINORMOUS thank you to Heather at Sugar Dish Me, who provided a lot of information. Heather, I still have lots of questions (like why are my links not working!), but I’m starting to figure things out–thank you!

Year of Healthier Living will still be up–no worries. Eventually, I will transition some of the better recipes to the new blog and add some additional yumminess!

Happy New Year, happy new beginnings and happy eating!

Day 336–Starting Week 49–Budget and Menu

Those of you who have children or grandchildren know that May and December seem to be the craziest months of the year. Every recital, performance, ceremony and exam seems to be crunched into these two months, as though February weren’t sitting there, all forlorn without any major holidays except Valentine’s Day. So this week will be a busy one, with PTA meetings, a winter band concert and a major holiday event for me at work. I’m planning to cook ahead on Sunday so we can have easy, quick (but healthy and local) dinners all week!

Our food expenses this week are $46.58 although one meal will be out since I’ll be working, so that figure is not indicative of our total spending.

Budget

  • Mitchell’s freezer (roasted tomato sauce, frozen tomatoes, frozen jalapenos, frozen yellow squash): $11.00
  • Mae Farm (ground beef, Italian sausage): $20.00
  • Trader Joes (manicotti noodles, cheese, chili powder, canned organic beans): $10.58 (
  • Farmer’s Market (lettuce, cucumber, broccoli): $5.00

Menu

  • Sunday–Veggie manicotti with local cheese, salad
  • Monday–leftover manicotti and salad
  • Tuesday–Chili and yellow squash muffins
  • Wednesday–Leftover chili
  • Thursday–State Tree Lighting (dinner at a food truck)
  • Friday–Stuffed butternut squash
  • Saturday–Shrimp and roasted red peppers with Melina’s spinach fettucine

Day 306–Poached Salmon in Apple Cider

English: Flesh of an Atlantic Salmon.

Typically, we buy our seafood only from North Carolina fisherman through a local vendor Locals Seafood. The fish, scallops and shrimp we have had are so fresh and delicious that we haven’t looked elsewhere. A recent Tweet from Whole Foods, however, encouraged me to veer off course and pick up some sustainable, Scottish salmon that was on sale. I hadn’t had salmon this year except for occasional restaurant meals, and it is sooooooo good for you that I just couldn’t resist. Salmon is low in bad fats, but high in Omega 3 fatty acids, protein and vitamin D.  I’m so glad I listened to my inner foodie, because that salmon was some of the best I’ve had in a very long time.

Buying a 2 lb. fillet of salmon required some quick thinking on my part. I hadn’t planned it into our meals for the week and needed a quick and healthy preparation that would allow the true flavor of the salmon to come through. I’m also on a budget, so I needed to keep extra expenses to a minimum. So necessity being the mother of invention, I decided to poach my salmon fillet using what I had on hand, which was fresh, local apple cider. I’ve only poached with white wine before, so I wasn’t sure how this would work. In the end, it was simply delicious. The salmon was moist with just a hint of apple sweetness. Now I’m wishing I had really splurged and bought two fillets!

Poached Salmon in Apple Cider

  • 1 large salmon fillet
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c. fresh apple cider
  • Aluminum foil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Tear off a sheet of aluminum foil that is large enough to wrap completely around your fillet without any additional seams. Lay the foil on a rimmed baking sheet.

Lay your fillet on the foil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Make a foil packet for your fillet by folding the two long sides of foil over your fish, creating a little “tent”  and crimping the edges (this will keep the steam in your foil tent).

Seal the short ends by folding them over several times. Before you seal the final short edge, pour the cider into your packet, then seal the last edge.

Pop the baking sheet into your prepared oven and bake/steam for about 25 minutes (a larger fillet like the one we had, took 40 minutes). When the fish is just opaque, it is done.

We served our salmon with local kale and local potatoes!

Day 303–Ribolita–Italian Twice Cooked Soup

White Cannellini beans

Ribolita uses white beans and leftover bread as thickeners, instead of cream.

Italian cooks are amazing. So many Italian recipes are born of necessity, frugality and making the most of whatever you have handy. And when you have a little of this and a little of that, plus some leftover bread, this Italian soup recipe is the bomb. Why “twice cooked?” This is one of those awesome recipes that tastes better the day after it is made, so you cook it once, park it in the fridge, then re-boil (ribolita) the soup the next day for a feast.

We’re in definite soup weather. Although our days are mostly sunny and cool, our evenings have been pretty brisk. For me, that is weather just calling out for soup. Ribolita is one of my all time favorite soups to make, especially when I have winter vegetables in the refrigerator and need to do something with them. Quick. When I make this, I chop all the vegetables first and have them ready to go. At the start, it seems like my counter is overflowing with veggies–the kale seems to really like taking over everything. It’s so good that I let it. As I continue to add ingredients, the pot gets to the point of brimming and the whole kitchen smells amazing. Gradually, I find my counter again.

Did I tell you this makes a ton of soup? I haven’t exactly weighed it, but I’m pretty sure it’s near a ton. So be prepared to freeze some unless you have a big family or some potluck to go to. And don’t be intimidated that this has a lot of ingredients–most of them are vegetables that you can find at your local farmer’s market this time of year. You do not need to serve anything with this soup. It is a complete meal all by itself!

Ribolita

  • 2 cans cannellini beans
  • 4 cups water
  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 sage leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into rough chunks
  • 3 large stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 white potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 1/2 c. green cabbage, coarsely chopped
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 bunch kale, trimmed and chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, diced (or 1 can)
  • 12 slices French bread, lightly toasted (or slice it and leave it to dry overnight)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, for serving
  1. Place the beans, broth, garlic, sage, bay and salt in a pot. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 20 minutes.
  2. Remove 1 cup of the beans and discard bay and sage leaves. Using an immersion blender, puree the reserved beans and set aside.
  3. In another large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook about 10 minutes, until transparent. Add the carrots, celery, potatoes, cabbage, Swiss chard and kale. Stir in the tomatoes. Season to taste.
  4. Cook vegetables until greens have wilted (about 20-30 minutes), stirring often.
  5. Stir in the pureed beans and cook about 20 minutes, until the mixture is thick.
  6. Stir in the remaining beans and stock. Adjust seasoning to taste. Add the toasted bread slices and cook about 10 minutes.
  7. Cool and refrigerate overnight.
  8. Reheat the soup over low heat about 20 minutes or until heated through. Ladle into bowls and top each bowl with some Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

Day 294–Starting Week 43–Budget and Menu

English: Taken by Bart Lacks

Steel cut oats are fueling us during these chilly, fall mornings!

I think I can…I think I can…I think I can…That was my mantra the past few weeks as I worked my way through some stressful and hectic days at work and at home. Most weeks, I manage to create a very healthy work/life balance, but every once in a while one side of that equation dominates the other and I find myself sprinting through each day, feeling frazzled and wishing I could cross some invisible finish line. That was the past two weeks. The good news is I survived and life will be on a more even keel after this week is over. I’m glad because I really miss cooking for my family, exercising the way I should, and feeling present in the moment when I am with my family. The lack of all three of those has made me pretty darn grumpy lately.

This week’s menu is a reflection of my transition back to a more regular routine. I have some easy meals for busy nights and more satisfying dinners for the weekend. I’ve been loving steel-cut oats with a scoop of crock pot applesauce in the morning for breakfast. Yum, yum! If you haven’t tried cooking steel-cut oats in the crock pot, give it a try. It definitely brings a healthy breakfast in reach during a busy week!

Our budget this week is $100.02, right at our goal of $100.00.

  • The Produce Box (lettuce, cucumbers, yellow squash, apples, field tomatoes, sweet potatoes, Spanish radishes, peanuts): $23.00
  • Homestead Farms (eggs): $4.00
  • Farmhand Foods (beef roast): $15.00
  • Trader Joes (soy milk, frozen fruit, oatmeal, cheese, organic tomato soup, half and half, pie crust, butter): $58.02

What are we having for $100.02? Here is the menu for the week.

Menu

  • Wednesday–Green salad with apples and pecans
  • Thursday–Grilled cheese and tomato soup
  • Friday–Working all night–leftovers?
  • Saturday–Pot roast with potatoes and carrots, squash casserole, salad
  • Sunday–Leftover roast and vegetables
  • Monday–Cheese quiche, baked sweet potato fries
  • Tuesday–Leftover quiche, whatever vegetables are left!

Hope you are enjoying some lovely fall weather and visiting your farmer’s markets, which still have a great variety of produce available!!!

Day 270–Yellow Squash Muffins

There are some food combinations that immediately speak to me–chocolate and hazelnut, tomato and garlic, bacon and, well, anything. Other combinations make me wonder–is this a joke? This recipe falls in the latter category. Yellow squash and applesauce? Blech. Since I had some homemade applesauce and large, lovely yellow squash on hand, I thought I’d throw caution to the wind and give this a try. This recipe is from Food.com, but was shared with me via our weekly Produce Box. How was it? Abso-freakin-lutely delicious. These taste more like corn muffins, but they don’t have any corn in them. We loved them. They are moist and light and not too sweet. Perfect with our acorn squash and apple soup and they would be delicious with chili as well. We ate our fill and froze the rest for some future fall soup nights!

Yellow Squash Muffins (makes 18)

2 lbs. yellow summer squash
2 eggs
1/2 c. melted butter
1/2 c. applesauce (we used our crock pot applesauce)
1 c. sugar
3 c. flour (we used whole wheat pastry flour)
5 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tin with liners or lightly grease cups.
2. Wash squash, trim the ends and cut into 1-inch slices.
3. Put squash in a medium saucepan along with 1/2 cup of water and cook for about 20 minutes or until very soft.
4. Drain squash very well and mash with a potato masher.
5. Measure 2 cups of the cooked squash into a medium mixing bowl and add eggs, butter and applesauce. Stir well and set aside.
6. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of mixture and add wet ingredients. Mix until just combined.
7. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full.
8. Bake about 20 minutes or until lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
9. Cool 5 minutes in the tin and remove muffins to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Day 261–Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

20120919-195222.jpg

On a chilly night, this butternut squash risotto is pure comfort food!

 

Winter squash is a great budget saver and so absolutely satisfying to eat on a chilly day that I have a hard time getting my fill. Like sweet potatoes, winter squash can be used in either sweet or savory dishes, which makes them incredibly versatile. I never used to make squash much because the peeling/chopping/steaming just seemed to take too long, especially on a workday. Now I never bother with all those steps. Instead I just cut the squash in half and roast it cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet for about an hour, scoop out the roasted pulp and freeze it for later. The skins can be composted–nothing goes to waste!

Butternut squash all ready for the oven!

This is how they look after roasting for about 40 minutes!

A couple of weeks ago, I received some butternut squash with my Produce Box. As nice as it was to see squash again, it was about 90 degrees outside and I just wasn’t ready. So, while I was roasting some tomatoes for sauce, I popped the squash in the oven as well and then froze the cooked pulp for later. I received more in my box yesterday and decided to roast it while I took my evening run. It was all kinds of yummy goodness by the time I came home! Just perfect for butternut squash risotto–a great supper (or side dish) on a chilly evening.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

  • 2 cups of roasted butternut squash (2 small or 1 large)
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 cups hot chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  1. To roast the squash, cut the squash in half remove seeds and sprinkle the cut sides with olive oil. Bake (cut sides down) on a foil lined baking sheet for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees. Roast until soft. Cool squash and scoop out the pulp. Use the pulp immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 6 months.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and keep warm. Warm stock will incorporate into the rice much more quickly and you won’t have to reheat the rice each time you add stock.
  3. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add minced onion and cook until very soft–about 3 minutes (the longer you saute the onions, the sweeter they will be–just don’t burn them!)
  4. Stir in the rice and continue cooking and stirring until the rice is glossy and starting to become translucent, about 3 minutes more.
  5. Pour in the wine and stir. Cook until wine has cooked down and is absorbed by the rice. Stir in one cup of the hot stock and one cup of the squash. Cook and sir until the stock has been absorbed–about 5 minutes.
  6. Continue adding the stock, one cup at a time, letting the stock fully absorb into the rice before adding more. With the final cup of stock, add the remaining squash. Cook until stock is absorbed. This will take about 35-40 minutes.
  7. Add the Parmesan, salt and pepper (to taste). Turn off heat and let risotto sit covered for about 5 minutes. Stir and serve!

Day 219–Starting Week 32–Budget and Menu

This week I am trying to feature those summer vegetables that will not be available too much longer–tomatoes, zucchini, okra and eggplant. We’re also featuring our Julia Child 100th birthday dinner, which costs more than most of the week 🙂 But, totally worth it. And, we are astonishingly under budget at $75.24. That helps make up for last week!

Budget

  • The Produce Box (cantaloupe, heirloom tomatoes, okra, eggplant, sweet peppers, squash, garlic, onions, cherry tomatoes): $22
  • Various farmer’s market (new potatoes, zucchini): $4.00
  • Rainbow Farm (whole roasting chicken): $12.00
  • Locals Seafood (pink snapper): $18.00
  • Hillsborough Cheese Co (mozzarella): $6.00
  • Trader Joes (frozen mango, yogurt, soy milk, shallots): $13.24

Menu

  • Wednesday–Red Pepper Tart, tomato and cucumber salad; leftover peach cobbler
  • Thursday–Pan seared pink snapper w/cherry tomatoes, corn, roasted okra
  • Friday–Tuscan eggplant parmesan w/roasted tomato sauce, leftover tomato and cucumber salad
  • Saturday–Homemade pizza
  • Sunday–Julia Child Birthday Dinner–roast chicken, roasted new potatoes, sautéed grated zucchini in butter and shallots, stuffed tomatoes, peach tart
  • Monday–Leftovers from Sunday
  • Tuesday–Carryover local pasta with roasted vegetables

Day 214–Your Cookies Will (Probably) Not Explode

Gasoline explosions, simulating bomb drops at ...

A friend sent me this link to a recent Huffington Post article about sugar and salt in our food. The premise is that our taste buds have been altered over time to expect our foods to be sweeter and saltier. It’s a funny piece that also drives home the point that we do indeed have the power to alter recipes, and that (probably) our baked goods won’t explode if we veer from the prescribed levels of sugar and salt.

My only issue with this article is that the sugar and salt levels that are so damaging to our health probably don’t come from home cooked foods. Rather, I believe the use of processed foods and convenience foods are a bigger, more insidious culprit. Still, the article is funny and it’s a good reminder to really think about the recipes we make and to take the time to experiment a little with adjusting ingredients. And it’s good to know that if we do, we don’t need a HAZMAT suit 🙂 Probably.

Click HERE for the article.